A couple of weeks ago Maynard gave a sermon on Justification. If you remember, he used an oil rig as an illustration. He said that the sea is the world’s sin. The tower is our character and the platform, if we remain on it, is justification. As long as we keep out of the sea and remain on the platform, we are saved through grace and are assured of eternal salvation. Of course we have the freedom to jump into the sea and God will not stop us but as long as we remain on the platform, we are saved.
My sermon this week is about the true cost of our salvation. Now that we are justified, having accepted Jesus as our saviour and been baptised, our salvation is assured, just as long as we do not deliberately sin.
The High Cost of the Cross
The late Elder Jo Crews, who died in 1994, wrote many sermons but one particular booklet which inspired this sermon was called: “The High Cost of the Cross”
In the booklet Elder Crews states that very few of us today really understand the true meaning of Christ’s suffering and his ultimate agonizing death on the cross. The writers of the Bible explained Christ’s death in human language but it cannot fully explain the mystery of the incarnation and the atoning death of Jesus.
Paul, in Philippians 2:5-8 wrote:
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
Paul did his best to explain in human words what Jesus did but there is no illustration that could fully explain his sacrifice. We cannot fully grasp the glory and positions from which he separated himself from omnipotence, into the body of a dying human race, a race he had created with his own hands at the beginning of time. This is why we find it difficult to grasp the atonement, because we cannot grasp the true cost of our salvation.
As humans, we value things that cost a lot of money and as far as we can, we keep those objects safe and make sure we don’t lose them. However, when we have something we put little value on, it doesn’t matter whether we lose it or not. If you receive a small gift from someone you love, it doesn’t matter the cost of that gift, you love it because you love the person who gave it, and conversely if we receive a gift from someone we do not like, even though that gift might be of more value than the gift we received from the person we love, we do not treasure the gift or value it.
Jo Crews illustrated this by telling a story of a business man named Sam, who he met and developed a warm, friendly relationship with. He broached the subject of salvation with Sam but received a reply that concerned him. Sam new nothing of salvation and wasn’t concerned about his life being lost for ever. Worried about his friends eternal life, Jo gave an illustration to try to give Sam a better understanding of the loss he faces at his death.
“Suppose you were given the opportunity of receiving $10,000 tomorrow, just for acquiring 10 signatures from certain people around the city?” said Jo. “Would you be willing to travel around the town tonight to get those signatures and once you got them keep them safe until morning?” Absolutely, replied Sam. “I would make doubly sure I kept them safe until I got the $10,000. I know a good thing when I see one.”
Money motivates and Sam valued the money he could get more than his own eternal salvation. Not only was this sad, it was also foolish because if we gain the wealth of this world during our short stay here, what good is it to us after we die?
We bring nothing into this world and we will surely take nothing in the material wealth we have accumulated, out of this world. We also cannot buy eternity with our worldly wealth.
Are we also Complacent?
As Christian believers, we hear sermons or read about the death of Jesus so many times that we can become complacent about the true cost of Jesus death. We must gain a better understanding of his death on the cross and to do this we need to understand the death he received.
Many Christian’s put Jesus death down to a normal human death, the same as the two thieves crucified beside him. This was not the case. It wasn’t the nails, the beatings or the spear that took Jesus life, his death was different – he died for every one of us.
The bible says in Hebrews 2:9: “He by the grace of God should taste death for every man. “
Can you grasp this? Just think of it – he died your death, he died my death, he died everyone’s death. How is that possible? This is the mystery and the wonder of what he did for us. He did not die by passing through the death we must go through, he experienced the second death for every soul who has ever been born, but for those who choose not to believe in Jesus, they will experience that second death for themselves – a suffering they do not need to experience because Jesus did it for them.
It is very important that we understand why God turned away from Jesus on the cross. Even the angels were not permitted to minister to him during his agony. He took the guilt of every human sin that had ever been committed and he suffered the weight of condemnation and that guilt and it crushed him. Separated from God, he cried out: “My God, My God, why has thou forsaken me” Matthew 27:46
Paul wrote in Romans 5:12:
“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”
We have to ask ourselves: “Why if only one man sinned do we all have to die? Do people have to pay the penalty for other people’s sins?”
Adam represented the whole human race. He stood in front of God as the representative of every person. Our DNA is from him and he started the hereditary pattern of the human race. We are partakers of his body and mind and we have been affected by what affected him. He is our father and we inherited the genetic pattern passed on through the ages.
What happen to Adam affected his children. He failed to obey a simple test and as a consequence forfeited the immortality he would have had if he had not sinned. He had to die and even though he lived 930 years, he eventually died and was buried. Sin ravaged his nature and his children inherited that nature but the children did not inherit the guilt of their father only his weakened, sin loving nature. Prior to Adam and Eve’s disobedience, they lived a full life in the Garden of Eden. They had conditional immortality and therefore unlike us, they did not need to sleep to refresh their bodies and minds. It was only after the fall from grace that God gave them ‘Sleep’ for two main reasons. First, because they would leave the Garden of Eden and till the ground to sustain their lives with food, they would tire physically and mentally. Sleep would replenish their bodies and minds overnight ready for a new day. Second, every night when they went to sleep they would be reminded of their physical death to come and every morning they would be reminded of the resurrection. Their daily taste of death and life would continue throughout their lives until they finally died. As Adam’s offspring, we sleep as he did, that is why as Christian’s when we wake up every morning we should thank God for a new day because one day we will not wake up to this life but sleep in the grave until the resurrection.
We are told by our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters that we are born with original sin. What is this? Well according to Roman Catholic teaching, we inherit Adam’s sin of disobedience and therefore along with him, we are accountable for that sin. Can this be right? No, absolutely not! If this were true, then we would be accountable for the sins of our fathers as far back as Adam. Adam paid for his own sin by his own death. We die because we inherited Adam’s fallen nature, receiving a mortal body through the basic laws of heredity. I should state also that if God had not intervened, Adam’s death and the death of the human race would have been final – there would be no human race.
This is where salvation began. God introduced his plan though Adam and Eve’s seed: Genesis 3:15. And this gave Adam new hope through this second arrangement – this plan of salvation, but it did not alter the consequences of his failing the first probation. Death of the body and mind would still occur.
So how did God meet this puzzling dilemma and uphold his integrity against the continuing accusations of Satan? By allowing death to come upon all humanity, he allowed us to live out our lives until death, whether we do good or evil. Each human death would be as a consequence of Adam’s failure to meet the first test. We would then be raised from the first death, which was not our fault but Adam’s alone and then stand before God to answer for our own personal sins committed during our life span, for which we are responsible. Each one of us will then be judged according to our own life choices between birth and the first death and how we met the conditions of salvation through Jesus. All those who deny Jesus as a personal saviour cannot enter into eternity. This is why Satan has created so many different religions in the world. The more he can get to refuse Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, the more souls he can prevent from entering into eternal life.
Judgment day however, does not occur until the resurrection, when the righteous, who have already passed the test, are taken to heaven, and the unrighteous are raised after 1000 years have passed, when they will receive the punishment for their failure to meet the conditions of probation during their earthly lives. Each one will have it explained to them before they are finally consumed in the flames and made into ashes, (Malachi 4:1-3) and this time there will be no probation. they will receive the second death – eternal extinction.
To better understand this let’s read what Paul wrote:
“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” 1 Corinthians 15:22.
The plan of salvation involves a resurrection of every human who has died, so everyone can be placed beyond the effects of Adam’s sin. This is necessary so that we can all be judged on the basis of our personal actions and choices whilst alive.
Adam died because he chose not to believe God and not because of any sins he may have committed after his garden of Eden disobedience. If he was found worthy of the second death it would not be because of his first sin of eating the forbidden fruit, it would be because he had not confessed and turned from his sins committed through his 930 years of life and therefore they would not have been forgiven. However, we know Adam did repent and he will enter into eternal life at the resurrection when Jesus returns.
Accusers of God
There are some who still accuse God of being cruel and arbitrary by bringing lost humanity back to life just to destroy them again, but this is a great misunderstanding of the plan of salvation. I have already stated the death of all humanity was the consequence or result of Adam’s disobedience, not a punishment for all human sin – only Adam received the punishment for his own disobedience. However, divine justice, requires that we all pay the penalty for our own sin. We are accountable for what we choose to do in our own lives to meet the conditions for our own salvation. Without a resurrection there could be no judgement and no retribution (forgiveness or punishment) could be given. The standards of divine judgement must be fulfilled and all who receive their reward will acknowledge the justice of God - both the saved and particularly the lost before they are finally punished with destruction.
Let’s examine the two Adams.
The first Adam represented the entire human race and Jesus the second Adam, represented every person.
“Therefore as by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many were made righteous.”
Paul is telling us that Adams actions affected the whole human race – whom Adam represented, and Jesus the creator stood before God as though he were every man.
That is why Paul wrote in Galatians 2:20
“I am crucified with Christ”
and in Romans 6:4:
“We are buried with him by baptism. As Christ was raised up….even so we also should walk in newness of life”
Our lives are deeply connected with the events of Christ’s life.
Jesus was born human
“Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like us.” Hebrews 2:17
Jesus had no supernatural powers whilst in a human body. If he had then Satan could have charged God with injustice and we all could accuse God of requiring us to have an impossible task to be obedient. Jesus came to prove the devil wrong by being fully human, that is by having a full human nature with the propensity to sin. It was because Jesus met every requirement that we as human’s can attain the same obedience and overcome the same sins that he overcame, proving Satan a liar when he says we can never overcome sin!
Adam gave us a physical birth, the weakness of the flesh, a sinful nature and death. Jesus through his sinless life gave us a new spiritual birth when we partake of his divine nature. We through him have the victory and the hope of eternal life.
Don’t miss the point that our new birth is spiritual. It is only by accepting him that we can be a new creation as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17:
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new”
A New Family
I think we all find it difficult to understand this new creation. We have changed families – we are no longer an Adam’s family member. We have been elevated into God’s family with a spiritual transformation of nature. That change is not theoretical or mystical - it is real. We have the privileges of God’s family. We are now eligible for all the riches and advantages of being the children of God. As Romans 8: 16&17 tells us:
“The spirit bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children of god: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ”
Paul describes the boundless resources of the spirit filled life in Ephesians 3:19
“That you might be filled with all the fullness of God”
Not only do we inherit the family name, all the assets, we also inherit the family resemblance. We even begin to look like our Father and elder brother as it says in Colossians 3:10:
“And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him”
How is this possible? Didn’t God make Adam in his likeness and then when Adam was 130 years old he gave birth to a son in his own likeness. Genesis 5:51-3
Adam looked like God but Adam’s son looked like Adam. However, under our new birth we lose our resemblance to Adam and look like the one who created him – Jesus.
God’s Righteousness Assured
Many do not believe that we can receive God’s righteousness or that we can overcome sin and live a holy life, even after conversion but Pauls words in Romans 5:19 are clear:
“By the obedience of one shall many be made righteous”
Jesus tasted the second death for all mankind. He voluntarily submitted to suffer the horrible penalty that our sins demand and with no ray of hope from the Father, he became engulfed in the darkness of a billion lost souls by tasting death for every human. Hebrews 2:9
Jesus Death was not Easy
It was not easy for Jesus to die on a cross and it was not easy for God to let him suffer. We cannot fully comprehend the love for humanity that cost the life of our creator. Only one man came near to understanding the intense suffering of a father for his son and that man was Abraham, the only man to share the agony of the cross.
Paul wrote that the scriptures, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham. Galatians 3:8. Jesus also recognised Abraham had special revelations on the atonement. He said in John 8:56:
“Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and he was glad”
To understand how Abraham had such prophetic insight, we must go back to his experience on Mount Moriah. He had failed to believe God when he was told that Sarah would bear him a son but this time, when he was about to sacrifice Isaac, he believed that God could raise his son to life after his death.
Abraham obeyed God even though he did not understand the command. How was it possible for the Messiah to come through Isaac’s seed if he was to kill him? By the time Abraham and his servants reached the base of the mountain Abrahams faith had resolutely claimed God’s resurrection power. He did not falter but told the servants to wait at the base of the mountain whilst he and Isaac went up to worship Genesis 22:5. Placing Isaac on the altar of sacrifice, he lifted the knife to slay him. His faith was being tested to the full because he knew he would not only be killing his own son, he was depriving the world of a saviour through Isaac, which God had promised. Even though his hand was stayed from slaying Isaac and God provided another sacrifice, Abraham did give up his son that day. He experienced all the pain, heartbreak and horror that attend the death of an only child. Thank God for the faith of Abraham and for the equal faith and submission of his beloved son Isaac, who lay without question upon the alter ready to allow his father to kill him. This story brings the love and sacrifice of the atonement within the understanding of every one of us who believe in Jesus so we can grasp a little better how God and his only son suffered at the cross.
The cost of our redemption becomes a little clearer when we find the answer to Hebrews 9:22, which states that:
“Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins, that is forgiveness of sin.”
It was absolutely necessary for Jesus to suffer the second death in order to acquire the power to forgive sins. Jesus committed an act of substitution in that he suffered the consequences of all our sins. Let me illustrate this.
If I am prepared to forgive someone a debt, I must suffer the loss of the amount that i am owed. I receive the pain of loss for the one who owes me the debt, and I am being punished for someone else. Jesus took our debt upon himself and suffered for us. Normally justice requires an eye for an eye or like for like but forgiveness relieves the offender from receiving what he really deserves. By forgiving the debt I have accepted the consequences myself in order that the person who owes me can go free without paying or in the case of Jesus – punishment, which the sinner deserves. So Jesus’ atonement re-adjusts our relationship with God. This is what atonement really is, a setting straight what is wrong. Being made righteous. For this to happen, two parties have to be involved in atonement – God and man, who sinned against him. There are only two courses of action possible – punishment for the sinner or forgiveness. If forgiveness is given then the forgiver has to accept the consequences of the sin and suffer it in place of the guilty. We know the penalty for sin is death, so in order to grant forgiveness to the sinner, Jesus took the punishment upon himself. Remember the punishment for humanity wasn’t the first death. Adam paid that price with his own death. The punishment for his seed, us, is the second death and Jesus became our substitution to put us right with God, that is he justified us with God – ensuring divine justice was executed upon him for us. He became sin in order to allow the full wrath of the law to fall upon him in exactly the same way it will fall upon the lost souls after the 1000 years have passed. Jesus bore the accumulated sins of us all and suffered far beyond any human suffering. Be assured God himself suffered along with his son but there was only two choices for God - either his son died for humanity or humanity died. There was no other choice. God loved those who broke his law but he also loved his son and Jesus chose to lay down his life for humanity and God accepted his choice.
What a scene at the cross it must have been. His beloved son being spat upon; hit with fists and bleeding. Not one of those individuals was worthy to be saved as they mauled him to death. God had the power to smite every one of them and totally destroy them forever but had he intervened to save his son, not one human being would ever live again. Adam, Abraham, Joseph, Daniel and every other child of Adam would be lost for all eternity. Our resurrection to eternal life depended completely on the death and resurrection of Jesus. God must have looked upon every face from creation to the cross and those to be born and in that moment even though he saw all our failures, he still wanted the human race to be with him in eternity. Torn between actions, God turned away from his son and allowed him to suffer the second death on our behalf. Even the sun shut off its light when Jesus died on the cross and earth shuddered in protest as he uttered his final words: “It is finished,” and yielded up his life. John 19:30
Do you think the price was too high? When we look at the world today, was it a wasted investment, a wasted sacrifice?
Many will say “I couldn’t care less’ it makes no difference to me, but what about you and I? Was Jesus sacrifice worth it? Well I know what I believe because God not only loved the world but he also loved me by giving his only son to save my soul from eternal oblivion. Jesus loves us and is concerned about each one of us individually – warts and all. In his short earthly life he did nothing but good to everyone he came in contact with. He wasn’t concerned about their individual worldly status, beggar or rich man they were all the same to him – he loved us all. He changed those with whom he came into contact with and they were never the same again. Even those who saw him as a threat to their lives could not fault him without lying. Jesus saw everyone as having the potential for his kingdom and he wanted them all to be with him.
One of the most astounding statements in the bible can be found in Hebrews 12:2:
“Looking to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame and is set down at the right hand of God”
How could that experience have any joy connected with it? What was that joy? He did it in the strength of anticipated joy of opening the gates of paradise to the family of humans that he died to save and accepted that sacrifice – you and me. Jesus believed that saving one lost soul was worth all the suffering he endured. He paid the ultimate price a price that is incalculable. Just think that one lost soul will outlive the number of the combined years of earth’s total population – in eternity the life of that one person will outstrip by millions of times all the life spans of all the inhabitants of this world put together, so one saved person represents more life, more accomplishment and greater fulfilment than all the lost people combined. Jesus saw in the faces of those he came across a life that could be immortalized and would love him forever. He justified us with God and he sanctified us so that we would be a special separate holy people. He substituted himself taking our sins to the grave and conquered death for eternity. He did much more than any of us deserve and we will be thanking him and worshipping him through countless ages. We will be reminded by the scars on his body and hands and we will study exhaustlessly the theme of our redemption. As the years roll by on this new earth we will continue to gain new insights into the nature of his atoning love and sacrifice
Paul says in Hebrews 2:3:
“How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation”
We cannot escape, there is no escape for those who neglect such a great act of selflessness. We are on probation today. Let us therefore do what God asks us to do and through Christ become what he wants us to be.
Don’t waver in your minds, thinking: “Am I saved or not?” Whilst we remain on the platform, that is continue to believe in Jesus and keep out of the sea of sin, we can be assured our characters are being moulded for a place in heaven. When we take our final breath and our race is finished, we can be assured we will rise with the righteous to meet Jesus in the air where we will be forever with him.